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Former Las Vegas Strip illusionist pleads guilty in child porn case

Former Strip illusionist Jan Rouven pleaded guilty Thursday in Las Vegas to possessing, receiving and distributing thousands of videos and images of child pornography.

Daniel Bogden, the U.S. attorney for Nevada, observed the roughly 45-minute plea hearing from the courtroom gallery.

“The risk to our children from sexual predators is constant and continuing,” Bogden said afterward in a prepared statement. “We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these disturbing cases and dangerous defendants as part of our implementation of the Project Safe Childhood initiative throughout Nevada.”

Rouven’s sentencing is scheduled for March 16 before U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro, who heard more than two days of testimony during a bench trial before Rouven cut a deal with prosecutors. He faces up to 365 months, or a little more than 30 years, behind bars.

Outside of court, defense attorney Jess Marchese said he would ask the judge for a sentence of five years, or the minimum possible prison time. But more time could be added to Rouven’s sentence because of the sheer volume of child pornography discovered at his home.

During opening statements in the case on Monday, prosecutors said investigators found more than 9,000 videos containing child pornography on nine devices scattered around Rouven’s property.

As the judge read through the allegations that prosecutors laid out in the plea agreement, Rouven disputed the figures, saying that some of the images could have been duplicates.

Rouven, who was indicted under his full name, Jan Rouven Fuechtener, also faces a fine of $5,000 for each victim authorities identify. Defense lawyer Jess Marchese said there could be as many as 85 identifiable victims, which amounts to a total fine of $425,000.

The illusionist has been in federal custody since March 16, when he was arrested by FBI agents. The Tropicana Las Vegas canceled Rouven’s show and severed ties with him a day after the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported his arrest.

Of the plea deal, which was hammered out during a break in testimony from the lead FBI agent on the case, Marchese said: “I don’t think he’s happy, that’s for sure.” But Marchese said all of Rouven’s lawyers believed the plea was in his best interest.

At trial, prosecutors also had alleged a charge of advertising child pornography, which was dropped as part of the negotiation. If convicted of all charges, the former star of the Tropicana’s “The New Illusions” show could have faced upward of 80 years behind bars.

U.S. immigration officials revoked Rouven’s work visa in June, citing the criminal case and the fact that Rouven no longer had a job as an entertainer.

In court papers filed just before the trial started, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Cartier-Giroux described Rouven’s manager-husband, Frank Dietmar Alfter, as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the case.

Both Rouven and Alfter are German citizens, and Alfter since has left the United States. Rouven is expected to be deported after he serves his prison term.

According to a criminal complaint, the investigation of Rouven began in August 2015 when an undercover FBI agent from Buffalo, New York, infiltrated a computer file-sharing network dealing in child pornography.

Investigators later found images and videos — which ranged from five minutes to more than an hour and featured juveniles, adults and animals — on devices in Rouven’s backyard casita, on his pool deck, in his kitchen and in his bedrooms, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elham Roohani told the judge.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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